May 21st Roundup: Baker Admin Blasted for Missing Compressor Data

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– Programming Note: With the Memorial Day holiday next week, the Roundup will be in your inbox on Wednesday next week, instead of Tuesday. Don’t forget to honor all those women and men who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their service to our country.


– Baker Admin Taking Heat Over Undisclosed Weymouth Compressor Data: The Baker administration is in hot water following a surprise twist in the saga of the proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth. During an appeals hearings concerning MassDEP’s (Department of Environmental Protection’s) previous approval of an air quality permit for the station, the administration unexpectedly released relevant data it had previously withheld from the public. The appeals hearings were initially scheduled to be over last week after just three days, but that was before MassDEP officials released 759 pages of new air quality data (after the close of business on the second day).

Now the appeals process has been extended into a second week, with hearing officers threatening the MassDEP with sanctions for what they called “unacceptable” behavior. The new data released by MassDEP, which included findings on over a dozen different toxins, was not included in its original emissions analysis of the compressor station site. It’s likely if the new data had been included in the initial analysis there would have provided sufficient evidence to deny the permit on the basis of the station’s adverse impacts on local air quality.

The fight over the air quality permit for the compressor station represents more than just a local battle against a dangerous industrial development. The compressor is a central part in a much larger natural gas pipeline expansion project into New England, known as the ‘Atlantic Bridge’. Gas opponents and industry groups from across the region are following these proceedings closely.

[At publication, the hearing officers had not yet ruled on the appeal, nor on possible sanctions for MassDEP.]

– Cyr, Hogan legislation seeks water task force: State Rep. Kate Hogan & Senator Julian Cyr each filed legislation last week to create a state-wide PFAS task force. The goal: to create a response framework that includes public education and promotion of best practices for treatment and disposal of this hazardous chemical found in about a dozen public water supplies in Massachusetts. According to the EPA, prolonged and continued exposure can lead to increased cancer risks and damage to vital organs such as the kidneys.

– “‘Net Zero’ proponents say science supports new emissions goals” (Matt Murphy, SHNS via Weymouth Wicked Local): “With scientists warning that the challenge of preparing for and slowing climate change will get more difficult every year, legislators and climate activists pleaded with leaders on Beacon Hill Tuesday not to wait to accelerate the state’s 11-year-old carbon emission reduction goals. Sen. Marc Pacheco, who has long been outspoken about aggressive approaches to climate change, and Rep. Joan Meschino have both filed legislation that would ramp up the state’s emission reduction targets.”

– “Massachusetts considers net-zero standard for new buildings” (Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network): “Activists and lawmakers are pushing for an updated building code in Massachusetts that would require new buildings in most cities and towns to generate as much energy as they use. The standard, often known as “net-zero,” would be implemented as part of the state’s stretch energy code, a more ambitious version of the statewide building code that individual cities and towns can choose to adopt.”

– “No guarantee $1 billion CMP line will deliver new energy, Massachusetts AG warns” (Josh Keefe, Bangor Daily News): “While Maine continues to debate the potential environmental impacts of Central Maine Power Co.’s proposed 145-mile transmission line, the Massachusetts attorney general and environmental groups have warned the contracts that would govern power sold over a completed line could undermine the state’s attempt to bring new amounts of clean, renewable power into New England.”


– “Tim Cronin on how local governments can act on climate” (Ted McIntyre & Mariah Tinger, Climate Minute Podcast): “The impact of climate change is often seen at the local level, in towns and cities. Whether it is beach erosion on the coast or heat waves in cities, local elected officials are on the scene first. Listen in as we chat with Tim Cronin of the Climate Action Business Association (CABAUS) about the roles and opportunities for local elected officials in fighting climate change.”

– “Infrastructure and climate dominate Walsh remarks to Dorchester Board of Trade” (Jennifer Smith, Dorcester Reporter): “Mayor Martin Walsh, fresh off a trip to the nation’s capital with Gov. Charlie Baker, had infrastructure and climate resilience on his mind as he addressed the Dorchester Board of Trade on Friday afternoon… On top of highlighting capital investments in Dorchester, Walsh called out the ongoing climate resiliency issues along the coastline.”

– “Pilgrim shuts down days before closure” (Christine Legere, Patriot Ledger): “With less than two weeks left until its scheduled permanent shutdown, Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is limping toward the finish line. The reactor was shut down Friday night after one of the plant’s two circulating seawater pumps was knocked offline. The reactor remained in hot shutdown Monday, at “zero” power, while operators worked on the pump system.”

– “How One Boston Doctor And Her Family Confront Climate Change” (Martha Bebinger, WBUR’s Earthwhile): “Pinsky, a pediatrician and child psychiatrist, gave herself some therapeutic advice: Do something. Now every daily action and decision for Pinsky and her family includes this question: What will help save the Earth …Here’s a glimpse of one afternoon guided by the drumbeat of climate change. The goal: to be car-free.”


– “Charlie Baker’s Muzzling Of State Scientists Hurts Us All” by Miles Howard, via WBUR’s Cognoscenti.

– “Get ready for another biomass battle” by Mary Booth, via Commonwealth Magazine.

– “Management on Massachusetts public forest land” by Mike Leonard via the Greenfield Recorder.


– “Mixed Concerns from Equity Groups at Latest TCI Workshop” (Jonah Kurman Faber, Climate XChange): “This past Wednesday, community groups and other stakeholders converged in Newark, New Jersey for the second official public workshop for the Transportation & Climate Initiative. This session’s focus was: “Advancing Equity & Creating Opportunities for All Communities.” The event gave community groups the opportunity to have a concerted discussion about the environmental justice needs of the region and how they relate to TCI. Just like the April 30th workshop in Boston, opinions were mixed between tentative enthusiasm and outright opposition.”

– “Oregon Cap-and-Invest Bill Nearing Passage” (Noa Dalzell, Climate XChange): “After nearly a decade of work, Oregon’s high-profile cap-and-invest bill appears to be poised for passage. Last week, lawmakers released what is looking to be the final, 181-page version of the highly anticipated legislation. The new bill includes 84 amendments and incorporates months of feedback from program experts, climate advocates, industry interests, and the general public.”


– “Insurance Wasn’t Designed For Climate Change – Here’s How It’s Impacting Small Businesses” (Kristin Kelleher, CABA): “As the climate continues to change, we will see an increasing regularity of extreme weather events and more insurance claims as a result, along with changes in real estate value… If coastal real estate markets continue on this trend, small businesses that are financially struggling may be unable to relocate. The past and expected future growth of insurance claims highlights the growing need for resilience across all areas of commercial, governmental, and residential sectors.”


– “Activists say Massachusetts incentives not enough to spur low-income solar” (Sarah Shemkus, energy News Network): “As Massachusetts’ newest solar incentive program heads into its first major review, environmental justice advocates argue the initiative has essentially failed in its stated mission to improve solar access to low-income populations… incentives, however, are not enough to overcome serious issues with the economics and mechanics of the program, activists said. As of mid-March, projects eligible for low-income rates or adders made up just 2.3% of the capacity applied for in the program. Just 193 of more than 5,600 projects fell into a low-income category.”

– “Massachusetts Looks To Harness The Winds, With Some British Help” (Jason Margolis, WGBH): ““We see the effects of climate change in full view here,” said New Bedford’s mayor, Jon Mitchell. “We’ve noticed that our beaches have eroded, but we also know that warming seas have changed the composition of the fish landings here. And we also know that ocean acidification looms as a major threat to the fishing industry.” Wind farms — which cut down on our reliance on polluting fossil fuels— can help reduce those threats. They can also bring in jobs. In the U.K., about 8,000 people are working directly in the offshore wind industry, which is helping to revive many older British manufacturing towns.”


– “Isolation problem: T fares rising faster than cost of driving” (Andy Metzger, Commonwealth Magazine): “By various measures, the cost of driving (not including the cost of the car itself, insurance, maintenance, tolls, etc.) has become cheaper in comparison to travel by T over the past three decades. Over that same time period, Massachusetts consumers have generally increased the number of miles they drive and the amount of gasoline they consume… All the driving takes a toll on the environment. While the power sector and residential heating sectors have made significant strides in lowering their greenhouse gas output, transportation emissions by 2016 had actually increased.”


– Joe Biden’s climate plan; “Beat Donald Trump”: During his official campaign kickoff in Philadelphia on Saturday, former Vice President and 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden laid out his vision for a post-Trump America, with himself at the helm. Among the accomplishments touted in his speech were Obama-era healthcare reform, the Paris Climate agreement, and CAFE standards. During the speech, Biden was sparse on how he would address global climate change if elected except in saying his climate plan was centered around “beating Donal Trump” in 2020. This comes only a week after reports that Biden was developing a ‘middle-ground’ climate plan that primarily seeks to restore Trump’s rollbacks of Obama climate policies. Biden has yet to release a formal climate plan.

– Bennet releases climate plan, proposes “Climate Bank”: US Senator and presidential hopeful Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) released his first major policy proposal of his 2020 campaign, choosing to focus on climate change. According to it Bennet plans to create a “Climate Bank” at the cost of $1 trillion, and use it to leverage an additional $10 trillion in private spending. The goal: to fund the country’s transition to net zero by 2050. Then plan also includes proposals to incentivize states to reduce emissions on their own, and an aggressive goal of setting aside 30% of the US’s territory for conservation. According to Politico, “Bennet says specifics policies [including a carbon tax] would come “in the first 100 days of the administration” through talks with Congress and voters”.

– “Warren backs calls for climate focused debate” (Miranda Green, the Hill): “Presidential contender Elizabeth Warren is adding her voice to a chorus of candidates and environmental groups asking for a Democratic primary debate focused on climate… Warren joins Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) in asking for a debate focused entirely on the issues of global warming, climate action and environmental policies.”

– “Jay Inslee Unveils $9 Trillion Climate Jobs Plan To Cut Emissions And Bolster Unions” (Alexander C. Kaufman. HuffPost): “Jay Inslee released a sweeping $9 trillion economic plan Thursday to create 8 million jobs, revitalize the labor movement and rapidly cut planet-warming gases, propelling the Washington governor far out ahead on the Green New Deal at least nine of his rival 2020 presidential candidates vowed to enact. The 38-page Evergreen Economy Plan promises at least 8 million jobs over 10 years, and offers the most detailed policy vision yet for mobilizing the entire United States economy to stave off catastrophic global warming and prepare for already inevitable temperature rise.”

– “Klobuchar becomes 13th Democratic candidate to pledge not to accept fossil fuel money” (Miranda Green, the Hill): “Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is joining the ranks of a dozen other 2020 presidential hopefuls in committing to limit fossil fuel donations to her campaign… The senator joins former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and others in signing the pledge, which was organized by youth climate group the Sunrise Movement.”


– “Coasts Should Plan for 6.5 Feet Sea Level Rise by 2100 as Precaution, Experts Say” (Sabrina Shankman, InsideClimate News): “As coastal communities prepare for the impacts of climate change, a new report warns that ice loss from Antarctica and Greenland could cause far more sea level rise than previously thought, and it says planners should not ignore that peril. If planners are working with a mid-range projection of sea level rise, their efforts might protect coastal regions from the most likely scenarios depicted in climate models, but that still leaves a lot of risk, say the authors of the study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”


– “E.P.A. Plans to Get Thousands of Pollution Deaths Off the Books by Changing Its Math” (Lisa Friedman, New York Times): “The Environmental Protection Agency plans to change the way it calculates the health risks of air pollution, a shift that would make it easier to roll back a key climate change rule because it would result in far fewer predicted deaths from pollution, according to five people with knowledge of the agency’s plans… The proposed shift is the latest example of the Trump administration downgrading the estimates of environmental harm from pollution in regulations.”


 Now What is a multimedia project of Climate XChange that explores how we can best craft our message on climate change and its impacts. Each week CXC’s Maria Virginia Olano sits down with advocates, policymakers, and experts to get a fresh new outlook on the future and how they are shaping the conversation around climate change. Listen to all the episodes here.

This week on the podcast, we are doing things a little differently. Our guest does not work in the climate field, but is the Executive Director of the organization awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. Beatrice Fihn leads the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which was awarded the prize for its work in highlighting the humanitarian cost and consequences of nuclear weapons. Once again this year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have identified the two most existential threats facing humankind as being climate change and nuclear weapons; for this reason our conversation with Beatrice is relevant and incredibly useful in how we conceptualize and advocate for these issues.”


– “Jay Inslee wants to save the planet and unions at the same time” by Paul Waldman, via the Washington Post.

– “Bill de Blasio’s energy plan isn’t as green as it looks” by Kartik Amarnath, Ashley Dawson & Shay O’Reilly, via the Guardian.

– “Risks are stacking up against the U.S. nuclear industry” by Randolph Bell, Jennifer T. Gordon, Robert F. Ichord Jr., via Axios.

– “The big climate-change disconnect” by Amy Harder, via Axios.

FOR MORE CONTENT from us subscribe to the Climate XChange Newsletter (Fridays, weekly) or the Climate Action Business Association Newsletter (Fridays, bi-weekly).